Sat, Jun. 04, 2005
Intestinal disease strikes day cares; 26 cases so far
By Steve Ivey
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER
Fayette County health officials are urging people to wash their hands often to contain a recent infectious disease outbreak.
Jim Wilkins, public information officer for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, said 26 cases of shigellosis have been reported since May 26.
Wilkins said 22 pre-school children and four parents have been diagnosed with shigellosis. He said the cases appeared in three Lexington day-care centers, but he declined to name them. The disease is most commonly spread when children or adults do not wash their hands after using the bathroom, before they prepare or eat food, after changing diapers or taking care of people who might be ill.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and bloody stools.
“If a child experiences symptoms, they need to contact the family physician immediately,” Wilkins said. “We need to head this off.”
Antibiotics can treat shigellosis, and patients usually recover in five to seven days, according to the CDC. Though symptoms can be severe enough to cause hospitalization, Wilkins said no Lexington patients have been hospitalized. “In fact, we haven’t even had any cases from the emergency room,” Wilkins said. “They’ve all come from family doctors.”
The CDC advises against using antidiarrheal agents to treat symptoms. They could make the illness worse.
Wilkins said environmentalists and epidemiologists have visited day-care centers but haven’t isolated the origin of the outbreak.
In March, Woodford County officials confirmed at least nine cases of shigellosis. The last major outbreak in the state came when Jefferson County officials reported 863 cases in 1996.
Wilkins said frequent and thorough handwashing will stop the spread of the disease.
“Before you prepare food, after you change a diaper, wash your hands all the time,” Wilkins said. “A regular bar of soap will do the trick, but you have to do it often.”